May Commencement in Benson Stadium

For the first time, the University of the Incarnate Word held a commencement ceremony at the Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium. David Robinson, formerly of the San Antonio Spurs, offered up words of support to the new graduates.

Dr. Louis Agnese greeted former San Antonio Spurs player David Robinson, who encouraged Spring graduates to follow their dreams, no matter how big and bold they might be.

“One of the things I want to encourage you in today is to dream big. Nothing changes without audacious goals,” said Robinson, who is completing an MAA in Organizational Development at UIW.

Robinson also had big goals throughout his life. Driven by an intense Christian faith and strong sense of duty, he and his wife, Valerie, created the David Robinson Foundation in 1992. The foundation’s most significant accomplishment to date is the opening in 2001 of the Carver Academy, which benefits many economically disadvantaged, at-risk students.

Robinson was selected as the No. 1 NBA draft pick in 1987 by the San Antonio Spurs, but did not play until completing his two-year commitment to the U.S. Navy. A two-time NBA World Champion (1999 and 2003), Robinson retired in 2003 from the Spurs after a 14-year career that featured many honors, including being selected as league MVP in 1995. He’s been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice- as an individual player and as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team.

Also speaking at the Commencement ceremony was the 2011 Alumni of Distinction for Professional Achievement, Ya’Ke Smith ’03 BA.  Regarded as one of this generation’s film directors to watch, Smith has made a name for himself with his veracious style of storytelling that takes an unflinching look at issues facing today’s society.

Alumnus of Distinction Ya'Ke Smith

Smith made his first film at the age of 15, while a student at San Antonio’s Sam Houston High School.  His films have received worldwide acclaim, screening and winning awards at more than 70 film festivals, including The Cannes International Film Festival, The DC Shorts Film Festival, The Austin Film Festival, The Dallas International Film Festival, The BET/Urbanworld Film Festival and The American Black Film Festival. His films have also screened on HBO, Showtime and BET. Smith is the recipient of a Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award, a regional Student Academy Award and an HBO Short Film Award. His latest short, “Katrina’s Son,” has screened in more than 30 film festivals, won 12 awards and is eligible for a 2012 Academy Award for short filmmaking.

Smith earned a BA in communications from UIW in 2003 and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.  He is currently an assistant professor at UT-Arlington and is fundraising for his debut feature, “Wolf,” which he will be shooting this summer.

The Saturday morning ceremony honored nearly 400 students earning bachelor’s degrees. Friday evening’s commencement celebrated graduates of the university’s master’s and Ph.D. programs and the second graduating class of UIW’s Feik School of Pharmacy.